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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Great Expectations" Edition

Sunday's texts can be found here.

How does God expect us to live in this world? Our lessons this week address that big question.

So how do we address that question in our congregations? What are some complicating factors? How do we communicate the robustness of a Christian rule of life while avoiding ideas of "perfection" that are both unrealistic and damaging to faith?  And where's the good news in our texts this week, anyway?

What are your great expectations for Sunday's worship focus and sermon message? As always, please share your thoughts here.


  1. Okay to start with the word verifictation on this post is prerrecr - someone who's not yet perfect?

    This week is the last of a too long series I've been preaching handling confict according to Biblical principles. I have managed to stay in lectionary with the exception of Feb 6th. So of course this week I'll be talking about loving and praying for enemies. Sounds good. Hard to do. Most often impossible by our own power.

    So the whole perfect thing will be an issue and this is one time when it's great to be Wesleyan and have an understanding of moving toward perfection - more importantly being moved toward perfection by the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Something else that comes to mind - only by God's grace are we perfected or made right with God. There is no perfection apart from God.

    We as recipients of that grace are called to offer that grace - back to conflict and praying for our enemies.

    This one will be a struggle for me as I still wrestle with my thoughts and feelings toward the man who murdered my neighbor while we were at the BE almost 2 years ago. I'm a long ways from perfect. Thank goodness God isn't through with me yet. I often feel like I should wear a big "Under Construction" sign and a yellow hard hat all the time.

  2. "Easier Said Than Done" is the sermon title and I am tempted to look back at our nation's reactions to the shooting in Arizona and where our focus lies now.

    As I recall, most everyone jumped on the political rhetoric bandwagon almost immediately, next came gun reform, and now.... silence.

    What is our responsibility to the mentally ill young man who perpetuated this horror? What is our responsibility when the next elections once again take political rhetoric to seething levels?

    Just like Jesus gave those listening then some actions points to undergird his love hypothesis, what are our action points today?

    Or something...

  3. I am going with Matthew, likely focussing on the first half of the passage. But other than the sermon tile "Go Deeper, Go Further" I've got nothing. And since there is no sunday School this week due to a long weekend i want to make the service more family-friendly. But am struggling with how to structure it for that too....

  4. well I came up with some ideas.

    My early thoughts and sparking questions can be found here


  5. Well, I and the congregation at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia are in for a bit of an adventure. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible and for some reason we are celebrating it on Sunday. I am using the lectionary which will be read in KJV - I am praying that the lessons will be intelligible. I'm using the first line from the Psalm asking God to teach us God's ways as a way to think about the history of translating the bible into English. I'm also beginning the sermon in Latin, 'cause that's what we'd be hearing without Tyndale and all those who paved the way for the KJV. And I'n ending with a celebration of the Word as a place in which God reveals Godself to me. And I'm preaching it off my Kindle (first time).

  6. The gospel passage from Matthew speaks volumes to me as a pacifist at heart. I would like people to understand that "turning the other cheek" doesn't mean submitting to abuse but rather active non-violent resistance. To quote Gandhi, "The first principle of non-violent resistance is non-cooperation with everything humiliating." And to quote Walter Wink, "[Jesus] advises, 'Stand up for yourselves, defy your masters, assert your humanity; but don't answer the oppressor in kind. Find a new way, a third way that is neither cowardly submission nor violent reprisal."

    I've talked about this with enough other people, however, to know that the message I'd like to preach along those lines might not be heard well by my much more politically conservative than me congregation.

    I like the last line of this passage, too (really, I love the whole pericope) "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." Not to encourage perfectionism....too much of that around already...but rather the notion that we are created in God's image, and striving to live more into that image is (to me) what it means to "be perfect."

    All that said, not sure where exactly I'll go with this. I was so excited to preach the sermon on the mount, but I'm not sure I've really done a great job with it so far.

  7. I can't believe I'm typing these words: I think I might use the Leviticus text.

    I'll give you all a moment to arise from your fainting couches.

    Since I've been making the case that Matthew places Jesus in the context of Hebrew tradition, why not read it and talk about it?

    But maybe I'll sleep on it.

  8. Here's the full Walter Wink sermon:

    Songbird, blessings upon you!

  9. KZJ, thanks for the sermon link--I look forward to reading it. I was quoting from "The Powers that Be" which I read with a men's group three years ago--great experience but tough going sometimes.

    SB, the Leviticus passage does lay the ground work for what Jesus preaches in the Sermon on the Mount. I like it.

  10. Songbird, Leviticus is underused. We rekindled (ok just kindled) a relationship a couple of years ago and I've preached out it a few times, given a number of lectures and Torah talks and nurtured my students' love of it. They don't love it but some of them like it and most have lost their fear of it.

  11. At a loss right now which is not really where I want to be on Tuesday. I preached Deuteronomy last week about choosing life and it feels like I have the perfect opportunity to let that flow into this week with some more specifics about what it means to make life-giving choices, maybe the difference between life-giving and life-preserving. Jesus' choices are difficult ones to make, but they are the way we receive the life we've been given and live it to the fullest it is intended (in there is where I think I find my definition of perfection).

    I also LOVE the part about the sun rising and the rain falling on both evil and good. It's a way into a sermon about asking "Why me?" Not really confident I'll go that direction, but I like the verse anyway.

    Not so sure what's going on yet, but hopefully I'll know soon.

  12. I am quite smitten with the Leviticus text. I'm thinking about the tensions and complements of law and love--as a "progressive," I may underestimate the value of law--the role it plays in helping us live out the hard choices of love.

    More thoughts on my blog for those interested. Thanks to you all for helping get the wheels turning!

  13. The "I'm-not-touching-you" game worked so well last week that I am thinking of trying another game - the Telephone Game. How do commandments orally transmitted, i.e. Leviticus, get so screwed up by Jesus' time that he must correct and expand on what people "have heard that was said". Eye for eye and tooth for tooth are not in the HB. Being kind to your enemy is - Prov.25:21-22.
    Not so interested in "perfection", but might play around with "holy". Which part of us is holy? Our big toe? Our brain....

    early thoughts

  14. Actually eye for eye is in the Torah (Exod 21:23-25) but what we commonly misunderstand is that it is a limitation, not a freedom. Only pay back what was taken--not slaughter the family in a blood feud.

    Still Jesus calls us to break the cycle

  15. Wil, we have a stained glass window in our church commemorating the presentation of the KJV :-) One of our parishioners (a genuine rocket scientist) had even pointed out to me that this year is the 400th anniversary. So I'll think of you on Sunday as I look at the window!

    I've got the family service again this week; I'm thinking of going with turning the other cheek and going the extra mile, which are both so counter-intuitive from a very young age. Obviously, I have a lot more figuring out to do.

  16. Having done Matthew and the OT last week, I'm leaning toward 1 Cor. this week. I've not preached on any of the lessons we've read from it so far in Epiphany and I'm thinking of doing a kind of overview and then wondering what Paul would write to us today. We still aren't perfect.

    Yesterday was orals for ordination candidates and a long drive to and from - we don't ever do meetings at my end of the Diocese. ;-)

  17. I've been reading the blog faithfully every week for months, but have never left a comment. I'm so glad there is a place where we "gals" can think out loud about what could be for our worship services. Praying for our enemies is not one of my strong points, nor am I anywhere near perfect. I do need help! Thanks to all those who do post and share their thoughts.

  18. Hi, Fancinanci; glad to have you here!

  19. Over and over again today I was reminded in my reading that the last verse about being "perfect" doesn't mean what we might think. It speaks about being complete, whole, moving to completion. I think that works well with resisting injustice and loving enemies


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